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Chief Justice responds on bullying results

26 March 2018

Chief Justice Sian Elias says she expects all judges to deal with litigants, witnesses and counsel with respect and courtesy.

Dame Sian has released a statement responding to the results of the Criminal Bar Association survey which found 65% of those reporting bullying or harassment had experienced it from a judge.

"Bullying of counsel is not acceptable. This is made clear in the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct. If it is occurring I and the heads of the bench want to know about it and we want to stop it," she says.

Dame Sian says it is difficult to tell from the survey whether the concerns expressed about judges were confined to in-court conduct perceived as overbearing or belittling or whether it extends to other conduct which should not be tolerated.

"If proper standards are not observed, I encourage those who are affected or who have observed such behaviour to raise their concerns with the head of bench or with me to make a complaint to the Independent Judicial Conduct Commissioner."

Dame Sian says she will be discussing the survey findings with the Criminal Bar Association to understand better the concerns that have been expressed and what steps should be taken to address them.

The New Zealand Law Society has released a statement endorsing Dame Sian's comments. Law Society President Kathryn Beck says lawyers working in the criminal law, like everyone, are entitled to a working environment free from bullying, harassment and prejudice.

A statement from the New Zealand Bar Association also endorses Dame Sian's statement. The NZBA says it encourages those experiencing any bullying or harassment from the court or any other source to speak to a senior practitioner if they need assistance and support in dealing with the issue.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019